Residents talk with civic leaders

Red Deer residents had the chance to view upcoming city projects and talk face to face with city staff and officials Saturday at the 2012 Let’s Talk event.

Red Deer residents had the chance to view upcoming city projects and talk face to face with city staff and officials Saturday at the 2012 Let’s Talk event.

The 14th annual Let’s Talk took place at Parkland Mall and encourages more free-flowing communication between the municipal government and the locals they serve. “I’m always delighted by the Let’s Talk days,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “I liken it to a municipal trade show.”

What started out as the mayor and just a few councillors talking to mall passersby in 1998 is now a full day of events and displays from over 30 city departments, committees and groups.

One of the things about Let’s Talk that makes it work so well, says Flewwelling, is the ease of the set up. In between their shopping, people can stroll from booth to booth and “just have personable conversations,” without the pressure of appearing at council to voice their concerns.

It’s important to the city to make itself and its services as available and accessible as possible, he added.

Those are the ingredients for a healthy and well run community, he said.

Greg Alexander and Shirley Clayton of Red Deer said they made sure to pay Parkland Mall a visit for Let’s Talk.

“It’s a good way for our voices to be heard,” said Clayton who wanted to talk to a representative in the transit department about extending bus times for late workers.

“Them doing this does show they care about our thoughts,” added Alexander, filling out a recommendation for the comment box at the transit booth.

Nostalgia and curiosity were running high at the city’s heritage department booth. The department revealed a new project for the first time at Let’s Talk, called the Community Heritage Mapping Project.

“We’re asking Red Deerians what places are special to them so we can celebrate not just old buildings but the people and the stories behind these old buildings, behind parks and places that meant something — even if they’re long gone,” said Janet Pennington, heritage community development co-ordinator. “I want to know where the lover’s lane in Red Deer was 90 years ago and spots that people went swimming in the rivers before there were any swimming pools . . . things like that.”

The project consists of about 25 aerial maps of every different neighbourhood in Red Deer. People can write their memories right on the board, marking where events happened, or their favourite places, said Pennington.

One comment with an arrow reads “crossed a creek here on a pipe to get to the Dairy Queen.” Another points out where the Red Deer Creamery once stood and scrawled underneath it reads, “my farm hauled cream here throughout the 60s and part of the 70s.”

Other highlights of Let’s Talk included Darwin, a husky-border collie cross puppy looking for a home at the Alberta Animal and Municipal Enforcement booth. Composting worms were also on display, much to the glee of squealing children, in a green tub at the Environmental Services section of Let’s Talk, along with an intricate model of the waste treatment facility.

The RCMP and the city’s Emergency Services were also on hand for the day, handing out mini red fire chief hats to children. Social Planning presented a jeopardy like game and Parks, Recreation and Culture had box hockey games and Lego land play areas.

“We’re trying to be an interactive as possible this year to engage everyone,” said the city’s human resources manager, Marge Wray. “And I think it’s been a hit.”